Must Public Conservation Eliminate 
Private Initiative? 
HE production of game, whether 
    by the use of straight field man- 
    agement procedures, or under wire, 
is a function of land. That means 
that the greater number of persons 
who have the theoretical opportunity 
to produce game are private land- 
owners. But when you stop to con- 
sider the trends in which our con- 
servation activities in America are 
moving, it is apparent that we expect 
little of the private landowner's acres, 
but a great deal from the publicly- 
owned   acreages.  The tendency is 
more and more to put the whole job 
up to the government, either federal 
or state; usually, in these days, both. 
This is an    unhealthy development. 
  There is a limit at which govern- 
ment ownership of land for conserva- 
tion purposes ought to stop. There 
are a good many indications now at 
hand that this limit has been passed. 
  For genuine specific purposes, when 
a given tract of land is actually needed 
to accomplish a very definite end, such 
as a waterfowl refuge or breeding area 
which is to be managed as such (rather 
than existing upon paper or as an area 
which is merely posted), very few con- 
servationists will raise any question 
about federal or state acquisition. 
There are many specific purposes for 
which it will always be legitimate and 
desirable that the government acquire 
additional acreage. 
   But there is a tendency now for the 
government to take ownership of vast 
blocks of land for very indefinite pur- 
poses. Forestry is one. Wildlife con- 
servation  is another.   Both  sound 
wonderful, but in actual practice they 
have come to mean merely that the 
federal government has taken on some 
more land and is spending a tremend- 
ous sum   thereon for relief purposes. 
The objective is one of relief; the 
utilization of labor, or giving the boys 
something to do. There is not one 
government project in a dozen which 
purports to be a forestry or wildlife 
measure (speaking of the emergency 
program as distinct from the normal 
functions of pre-Roosevelt bureaus), 
which gets down to brass tacks and 
does things for forests or for wildlife. 
  This confusing of objectives and 
methods is a very bad thing. It would 
be a great deal better to have the gov- 
ernment buy up a dump-yard some- 
where and put the boys to work on it. 
The reason that this is impossible is 
because people know too much about 
dump-yards. They would shortly get 
the idea that such activities were a 
form of waste-waste of labor-waste 
of money-waste of brains. People in 
general (and that goes for the biggest 
of the big shots who talk to farmers 
in overalls and tell them that the gov- 
ernment will see them through and 
that it's fine to see so much under- 
brush cleared off from    that island 
which the CCC cleaned up so per- 
fectly) know so little of what con- 
servation is all about that they do not 
know whether what they see is waste 
or not. If someone tells them    it is 
forestry, it is forestry. If someone 
says it is conservation, it must be con- 
servation. About eight tenths of it is 
a lot of "hooey." A great deal of it 
actually works in reverse, making the 
forests less valuable to the public, and 
increasingly less valuable to wildlife, 
because of the constant artificialization 
which the relief crews bring to the 
  A good many of the game managers 
in the federal service, if they read this, 
will criticize it, personally or publicly. 
But many of them secretly will admit 
that even in their own departments 
the only time practical conservation 
work gets a break is when it happens 
to fit the relief-employment picture. 
That would be perfectly all right if we 
didn't do so much ballyhooing about 
it I If federal executives frankly said 
that the labor objective is the impor- 
tant one, and if some good conserva- 
tion work gets done by accident well 
and good, people would have more re- 
spect for them. As it is, glowing re- 
ports issue forth which would delude 
anyone who doesn't know much about 
it into believing that wildlife has been 
saved  from   extermination and   the 
forests multiplied by ten times their 
former acreage (trees not land). What 
the public does not know may be the 
fact that the labor used went into 
trimming a few branches from trees 
which are not economically valuable 
and therefore should have been left 
in their original, natural, limby con- 
dition. What they also do not know 
is that the government is taking hun- 
dreds of acres out of game production, 
by misdirected clean-up   work, for 
every acre it improves. On the record, 
it all shows as improvement.     But 
game managers fundamentally are not 
politicians and they have their own 
records to keep, and to keep clear. If 
they cannot do that, they are not tech- 
nically sound. 
F RANKLY,       we   somehow    have 
   picked up an impression that con- 
servation under federal administration 
in this country is degenerating into 
more or less of a racket.  "Them's 
strong words, brother!"   Right!-It 
takes strong words.    Because when 
and if (and it is just a question of 
time), the pendulum swings back to 
economy, retrenchment and soundness, 
this wildcatting of the conservation 
movement will work to lop off not 
only the superfluous and the ill-advised, 
but the good and the necessary proj- 
ects.  Consequently, if any federal 
man or state man who happens to read 
this dope disagrees so violently with 
the conclusions drawn as to turn blue 
in the face and be upon the verge of 
writing a good hot rebuttal, my sug- 
gestion is merely that he look back 
at his own work and put that same 
amount of energy into making it 
sound: So sound that from the con- 
servation standpoint it is air-tight. I 
suggest that he also begin immediately, 
whether or not he has done so in the 
past, to oppose and say "no" to un- 
sound proposals which come to him. 
For the good of the cause. 
  Federal conservation is necessary. It 
has a very large and rightful place in 
the future picture: Forests, game, 
wildlife other than game. But federal 
conservation  activities have  mush- 
roomed so rapidly, have duplicated so 
fast, have become so confused, that the 
work is in danger of becoming dis- 
credited. The job needed to be done 
is bigger than the individual fortunes 
of technicians. It is big enough to be 
worth doing right, doing soundly. And 
if necessary fighting hard to see that 
it is done soundly. It is very poor 
policy in intragovernment ranks to 
fight an official proposal. Which is 
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